Why permission is never enough

By Mathew Patterson on 20th July 2007

Something we cover on this blog and in our help over and over again is the importance of having explicit permission before you email someone. However, just having that explicit permission is not enough. Recently the FTC Spam Summit 2007 was held in Washington, subtitled "The Next Generation of Threats and Solutions".

According to Jordan Cohen of Epsilon , some of the top ISPs and email providers are moving to a looser definition of spam than is currently held. According to Jordan, a Yahoo representative said:

Operationally, we define spam as whatever consumers don't want in their inbox.

Other influential people were heading in the same direction - it's not enough that someone originally asked you for email, they have to actually keep wanting to receive it. Getting someone onto your list is not the end of your job. You have to work at keeping them happy too.

So what does that mean for you as a designer? One key point is to recognise that some percentage of people on your list probably don't want to be on it. You should make it much easier for them to unsubscribe than to mark it as spam. So don't hide your unsubscribe link in tiny font or bury it in a paragraph.

Every campaign needs to be absolutely relevant for your subscribers. Secondly, keep encouraging your clients to concentrate on list quality instead of list size. Work on making the content more valuable to your subscribers so they want to keep getting it. That's your best ongoing protection against spam complaints.

2 Comments

  • Danny Foo
    22nd July

    I’ve an idea to constantly improve ones newsletter.

    If a customer or subscriber decides to unsubscribe, may be you could direct them to a page to not only unsubscribe but to give a simple reason to why they are doing so. The format could be like this:

    Hi [name],

    Thank you for supporting [company] and our newsletter. We would like to know why you are unsubscribed from our mailing list:

    [ ] Uninteresting content
    [ ] Unattractive design
    [ ] Not what I expected

    Click here to unsubscribe without answering the above.

    Regards,
    [company]

    It’s not perfect but just an idea to enable senders to continuously improve the content, design or brainstorm how else they should improve their newsletter.

    Just my few cents.

  • Mathew Patterson
    23rd July

    Interesting idea Danny, and it is definitely valuable to get feedback from people who are unsubscribing.

    You could actually do this already with Campaign Monitor - using the custom unsubscribe confirmation page. Once someone has clicked unsubscribe and been removed, you send them to a page on your site that says:

    “Sorry to see you go - if you have a second, please let us know why you are unsubscribing” and have a form that emails you directly.

    That way they are already unsubscribed as they requested, but still have the chance to give some feedback.

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